Shane Bieber’s stellar season has allowed him to vault to the shortest AL MVP odds with only a few weeks left in the season. Photo via @CBSSportsHQ (Twitter).
- The AL MVP odds for Cleveland ace Shane Bieber are almost three times better than they were at the start of September
- Only two pitchers have won an MVP award since 1993
- To see how Bieber stacks up with the rest of the MVP candidates, check out the article below
Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber is now the rightful frontrunner in the American League MVP race. Only eight days ago, he was a middle-of-the-pack candidate at +1350, lagging behind players like Brandon Lowe (+500), Jose Abreu (+600), and Mike Trout (+633).
Bieber, the AL leader in just about every important pitching statistic, has since leapfrogged all three (and more). Drastic line movement is an unsurprising byproduct of such a short season.
Here’s how the average AL MVP odds currently look, with only a few weeks left in the season.
2020 AL MVP Odds
|Player (Position, Team)||Average Odds on Sept. 9||Average Odds on Sept. 1|
|Shane Bieber (Pitcher, Indians)||+400||+1350|
|Mike Trout (Outfielder, Angels)||+550||+633|
|Jose Abreu (First Baseman, White Sox)||+650||+600|
|Nelson Cruz (Designated Hitter, Twins)||+825||+833|
|Brandon Lowe (Second Baseman, Rays)||+950||+500|
|Anthony Rendon (Third Baseman, Angels)||+1125||+1183|
|Luke Voit (First Baseman, Yankees)||+1250||+1367|
|Jose Ramirez (Third Baseman, Indians)||+1500||+2033|
|Willy Adames (Shortstop, Rays)||+1500||N/A|
|Tim Anderson (Shortstop, White Sox)||+1650||N/A|
|Luis Robert (Outfielder, White Sox)||+2000||+2833|
|Matt Chapman (Third Baseman, Athletics)||+2100||+2233|
|Francisco Lindor (Shortstop, Indians)||+2450||+1967|
|Kyle Lewis (Outfielder, Mariners)||+2500||+2600|
|Teoscar Hernandez (Outfielder, Blue Jays)||+2500||N/A|
Odds as of Sept. 9th.
Is Bieber really doing to do this thing? If not, who’s the reasonable play? Let’s dive in.
Precedent for MVP Pitchers
There is not a ton of historical precedent for pitchers winning the MVP award, though there are two fairly recent cases. Justin Verlander (2011) and Clayton Kershaw (2014) are the only pitchers to earn MVP honors dating back to 1993.
OTD in 2014, Clayton Kershaw became the first pitcher to win NL MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968. pic.twitter.com/PdwTAUYZPA
— MLB (@MLB) November 13, 2019
Part of this is due to the fact pitchers sort of have their own MVP already, the Cy Young Award. Another part of it is that starting pitchers only work every fifth day, a key differentiator from other players.
But of course, the likes of Verlander and Kershaw prove it can be done. For this conversation, that’s a point in Bieber’s favor.
The Mastery of Bieber
To borrow a relevant baseball phrase, Bieber’s season performance is nearly the equivalent of a perfect game. His current numbers — 7-0 record, 1.25 ERA, 14.9 strikeouts per nine, 1.58 FIP — are absolutely spectacular and well worth the MVP award.
Shane Bieber, 94mph Paint. 🎨
He makes this game look so easy. pic.twitter.com/Q0AgJLuMt7
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 6, 2020
All nine of his starts have featured at least two of the following things: six-plus innings pitched, three or fewer runs allowed, and eight-plus strikeouts.
And yet, as other-worldly as he has been, there’s cause for concern: he has four scheduled starts to go, and if even just one of those is an implosion, it would likely derail his MVP bid. He must continue to be near-perfect.
Don’t Count Out Trout
The safer pick at this point is Mike Trout. The three-time (and reigning) MVP is doing something this season he has never done before: leading the majors in home runs.
Only Nelson Cruz has a better OPS than Trout, but Cruz’s value is capped by the fact he is solely a designated hitter. Trout, on the other hand, mashes baseballs while playing the premier position of center field.
Have you ever thought “I want to watch all 300 of @MikeTrout‘s HR swings in a 60-second span”?
You’re in luck! pic.twitter.com/1MkZRJ2ihW
— MLB (@MLB) September 6, 2020
If Bieber has a bad day, he has far fewer opportunities to redeem himself. It might simply take one rough inning to pull him out of the race.
If Trout has a bad game, he gets to go right back on the field the next day to try again. For someone as talented — and decorated — as Trout, that’s all the solace a bettor can ask for.
Pick: Mike Trout (-550)
Jordan Horrobin is a sports journalist whose MLB, NHL, NFL and NCAA work has appeared in outlets such as The Athletic, MLB.com, the Detroit Free Press and more. He is currently based in Toronto, also working as a contributor for Forbes.com and a freelance editor for Sportsnet.